The Pilates principles are the foundation of the Pilates method and are what make the exercises so effective. Knowing and applying these principles to your workouts will help you to balance your body's musculature, prevent injuries, and maximize the results of your workouts. This month's principle is Concentration. Read on to find why Joseph Pilates called his method the "thinking man's workout."

Rael Isacowitz, founder of Body Arts and Sciences International (BASI) divides this principle into two parts, awareness and concentration. He regards "awareness as a state of mind -- of being mindful and feeling the movement" and concentration as "a more cognitive process of understanding the movement." (Isacowitz, 9)

Awareness is the initial realization of the body, where it lies in space, how it moves, and any tightness, misalignment, weakness, habitual movement patterns or other imbalances that we may have developed throughout our lives. That initial awareness is critical to achieve a baseline from which to progress. Our muscles and joints contain proprioceptors that tell our brain where we are in space and how far a joint can move before injury. Over time, we train our proprioceptors to feel that misalignments and limited range of motion are correct and representative of our body's full potential. In order to change those patterns, we must first become aware.

Concentration is viewed as the "bridge between awareness and movement" (Isacowitz, 9) Once you have established your baseline, it is essential to bring that same awareness into every movement. Checking in with your body periodically can help to develop your concentration. If you find yourself thinking about something other than your workout, scan your body, especially those places you are working to retrain, and notice if they are engaged, relaxed, stabilized, or moving as they should be in the exercise. By bringing your awareness and concentration to a particular muscle you facilitate the firing of that muscle. Where patterns exist, it can be difficult to work the correct muscle(s) even with intense concentration, but nearly impossible without that attention. If you don't know what you should be focusing on in a particular exercise, ask your instructor.

Remember to keep it light, you can over-think things. If you become tense or frustrated, let it go. Do your best, you can always move on to another exercise, one that is easier or more familiar to your body, and return to the more challenging exercise later.

Isacowitz, Rael. (2006). Pilates:Your Complete Guide to Mat Work and Apparatus Exercises. Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL

Author's Bio: 

Tamsin is performing her student teaching and observation at Bella Forma Pilates in Carlsbad, CA to complete her Pilates certification through MiraCosta College. She has been practicing Pilates regularly for several years in addition to practicing yoga for nearly a decade. She completed yoga teacher training in the Anusara style through Yoga Del Mar, under the guidance of Certified Anusara Instructor Geri Portnoy. Tamsin has extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology. She is a Holistic Health Practitioner specializing in Jin Shin Acutouch and CranialSacral Therapy and teaches massage and Oriental Medical Theory at IPSB College. She is currently completing coursework towards becoming a Registered Dietician. In addition to her extensive background in holistic health, Tamsin is an up-and-coming entrepreneur and was last year’s recipient of an SBA award for her business acumen. She teaches sustainable business practices at MiraCosta College, and acts as a consultant to private businesses on that topic as well as on social media marketing.